“The nifty X1D II makes medium format the next full screen, but it’s not a must.”
Excellent 50MP pictures
Large 3.6-inch LCD
60FPS refresh rate
Significantly cheaper than X1D-50C
Nice design and craftsmanship
Still relatively slow
Auto focus with contrast detection
Low Light AF basically unusable
The medium format X1D II 50C is a further development of the original Hasselblad X1D-50C, which is known for its excellent image quality and frustrating user experience. Far from being a revolutionary update, it is based on the same sensor and uses the same design (albeit with a new and quite attractive graphite gray color), but it does bring numerous small improvements.
However, there is a headline update. The price. At $ 5,750, it’s thousands less than the original. This contrasts with the flagship full-frame Nikon and Canon DSLRs, not to mention competing medium-format models from Fujifilm. This dramatic price cut is exciting for high-end enthusiasts and professionals, and signals that Hasselblad could consider medium format – at least this special 44mm x 33mm variety – as the next full-screen mode.
As full screen becomes cheaper, photographers may be looking for a new target format for the next step in image quality. The 50MP sensor in the X1D II is several years old. However, since it has a surface area that is approximately 70% larger, it offers a significant improvement in noise and dynamic range compared to many full-frame sensors. It’s not much of a difference from the best full-frame cameras, but it can be worth it for the right situations.
I’m still not convinced that the Hasselblad X1D II will encourage most photographers to look beyond the full screen. Many of the subtleties that cameras from Canon, Sony and Nikon have in common are missing. However, the price proves that Hasselblad is ready to make its brand more available.
What’s new in version II?
The original X1D left a lot to be desired, but one was the design. The X1D II has been left alone well enough and is still the most beautiful camera on the market.
It is also not a form about function. This is an optimized camera, but it places the critical controls where you need them. It also has the best touch interface in the industry that allows you to easily customize icons like you would on a phone. All of this is enhanced by a new 3.6-inch monitor. The electronic viewfinder now uses an OLED panel.
Another new function is the USB-C port, which can now be used to charge the battery in the camera. I don’t know if many professionals will benefit from it, but it’s a nice touch and something I’ve used a lot in this review.
The previous Hasselblad X1D-50C performed poorly, but this has been fixed for the X1D II. The start time has been halved, although it is still a long way from turning on most full-frame cameras right away. The refresh rate of the monitor and EVF has increased to 60 frames per second, a huge improvement over the odd 37 fps rate of the original. Continuous shooting has reached from just 2 fps to 2.7 fps.
The Hasselblad X1D II feels more user-friendly from day to day due to increased performance, but don’t make a mistake. This is still not a camera for quick photography.
You have to enjoy the work of photography to get the most out of it, but it offers a rewarding experience for those who do. The weighty metal body and the deliberate waiting lock (which is actually in the lens) make each exposure seem like a decision of the committee. Even potential snapshots or test photos have a new meaning. It’s the exact opposite of taking pictures with your phone.
The conscious nature of the camera feels precise when you want to take your time. It’s also annoying when you’re in a hurry. Compared to the Fujifilm GFX 100, which I was lucky enough to test at the same time, the Hasselblad feels antiquated. While Fujifilm impressed me with its ability to keep up with a 9-hour wedding shoot, the Hasselblad is not suitable for unpredictable shoots. This is mainly due to the auto focus, which is still based on slow contrast detection and works poorly in poor lighting conditions.
Auto focus was unreliable when taking portraits in a makeshift studio with limited ambient light. It often found no focus at all. I had to use manual focus to get a clear shot. This is frustrating if a camera under $ 1,000 was okay.
I think that makes the X1D II a great camera for landscape and art photography, but there’s no denying that it lacks the versatility of faster full-frame cameras.
Slow shooting is combined with a modern and responsive touch surface. Navigating menus and settings on the X1D II is faster and easier than most others. Only Blackmagic Design with its Pocket Cinema Camera series offers a touch surface that corresponds to that of Hasselblad.
Hasselblad also has a new tethering solution for the X1D II that allows you to shoot directly at an iPad Pro with the Phocus Mobile app. I couldn’t test this feature, but it could be a useful tool for commercial photographers.
The X1D II is a top performer when it comes to image quality. The biggest change from the original X1D is that you can now shoot full resolution JPEGs. This is helpful if you need fast delivery, but anyone who buys this camera will buy it to record RAW. The RAW files are still among the best in the industry and also do well compared to the newer, higher-resolution sensor in the Fujifilm GFX 100. If you don’t need 100 megapixels – just a few of us – you can’t get better picture quality than the X1D II.
However, it is a small difference from the full screen and not a difference that is worthwhile for the majority of photographers. Most full screen systems also offer a wider range of lenses. Although these lenses are objectively no better than Hasselblad’s, they offer more possible perspectives. However, the X1D II does not aim broadly, but deeply. If your photography style fits into the narrower use cases, you’ll get stunning results.
In many ways, the X1D II feels like the first X1D should have been. It is a beautiful, professionally made machine that is also slow and cumbersome. In one sense, this is part of its charm – the photographic equivalent of hammering keys on a mechanical typewriter – but is undeniably behind the curve.
The X1D II will find a home for art photographers who can use it and afford it. For the rest of us, it’s more valuable than a beacon of what’s to come. There are now more and cheaper medium format cameras between Fujifilm and Hasselblad than ever before. The X1D II itself may not be ready to take over the full-screen area, but the format is becoming more and more attractive.
Is there a better alternative?
The closest competitor is the Fujifilm GFX 50R, which uses the same sensor and a similar (albeit less attractive) case. It’s also cheaper, though it’s still not cheap at $ 4,500. The 50R doesn’t have the GFX 100’s advanced technology like phase detection, auto focus, and image stabilization, so it doesn’t outperform the X1D II like its $ 10,000 sibling. Whether you like it better than the Hasselblad depends on the lenses. The GF lenses from Fujifilm are generally cheaper than the XCD lenses from Hasselblad. However, we were impressed with the tested XCD lenses.
Most photographers are still better off with a full-frame camera because they run the risk of sounding like a broken record. Get more megapixels for less with the Sony A7R IV. It also offers better autofocus and better recording speed.
How long it will take?
This is a very well-made machine that is designed for a long service life. Because Hasselblad uses lens-based blade closures, there are also few options for moving parts in the camera body itself. Just have some sensor cleaning supplies ready because the camera doesn’t have an automatic cleaning sensor.
Should you buy it
No. There is a niche group of photographers who may find this camera suitable for their needs. However, most people – including professionals – need a faster and more responsive camera.